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Bills choose not to place franchise tag on S Byrd

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm •  Published: March 3, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills general manager Doug Whaley is done playing franchise tag with safety Jairus Byrd.

After spending much of the past year trying to negotiate a long-term contract, Whaley preferred risking the loss of Byrd in free agency rather than applying the one-year tag on the three-time Pro Bowler for a second consecutive season.

"We didn't think it was the best option for the team, for us to get better," Whaley said shortly after the NFL's deadline for teams to designate franchise players passed Monday afternoon. "The best thing for the Buffalo Bills was to try to get him signed to a long-term deal."

Whaley didn't rule out the possibility of the sides negotiating a deal before the start of the NFL's free-agency period on March 11.

"As they say in the movies, there's always a chance," he said.

Whaley, however, did call it a "fair assessment" that Byrd is more interested in testing the market to determine his worth after being prevented from doing so last year.

Negotiations reached a standstill last weekend after the Bills made Byrd what they regarded as a lucrative multiyear offer.

Without revealing the full value and length of the proposal, people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that Byrd would have been paid about $30 million over the first three seasons of the contract. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly discussing the negotiations.

Byrd played under a $6.9 million franchise tag last year. The price for Buffalo to apply the designation again would be about $8.4 million this season.

The one-year price tag might not have scared the Bills from using it one more time. A bigger deterrent was paying that much money for a disgruntled player who missed nearly the entire offseason last year before accepting his contract a day before the Bills broke training camp in late August.

"I wouldn't say those words," Whaley said, when asked if he was frustrated by a failure to reach a deal. "I would say, 'Hey, we worked hard. It's still not over yet.' Then, when it's over, I'll let the feelings seep into the equation."

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